Glove Don't Lie: Josh Donaldson's Exploding Mitt Betrayed His Defensive Prowess
Even before he was an MVP-caliber slugger, Josh Donaldson could always count on his glove.
He has finished in the top five in ultimate zone rating (UZR) among third basemen each of the past three years, and he was second behind only Chase Headley in 2014. For the most part, his glove has served him well.
He's just going to want a new one now.
These things happen. pic.twitter.com/R15yckdk6p
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) April 21, 2016
That was Baltimore Orioles rookie Joey Rickard punching a ball right through Donaldson's webbing. Despite Donaldson's glove's attempted coup against its holder, Donaldson was not assigned an error -- Rickard was credited with a base hit. The true punishment came later in the inning.
Rickard stole second base while Manny Machado was at the dish and later scored on a Machado single. That cut the Toronto Blue Jays' lead in half, and the Orioles eventually went on to win by a run.
Donaldson's glove went all Benedict Arnold on their behinds.
Before we go ahead and assign all of the blame to an act of betrayal between long-time confidants, we should at least entertain the possibility that there was a third party involved. After all, any time Machado and Donaldson are even tangentially related, it's hard to overlook the possibility of sabotage.
You could call it a mere coincidence that Machado was waiting in the on-deck circle when the incident occurred, but he clearly benefits from any dings to Donaldson's defensive reputation at the hot corner. Machado took home his second Gold Glove award last year, but that was after finishing third in the American League in UZR among third basemen. Who was one of the guys ahead of him? Donaldson, of course.
When you add in the history that Machado and Donaldson have together, it seems more likely than not that there was some form of witchcraft involved with Rickard's line drive.
This happened in 2014 when Donaldson was still with the Oakland Athletics.
That friendly discussion was followed the next day by this.
Sure, all of this happened almost two years ago, but any time you've got Donaldson and Machado tangoing together, the conspiracy theories are bound to fly. Then you consider the threat Donaldson poses to Machado's golden throne at third base, and a supernatural act from the on-deck circle becomes the most-likely scenario.
Whatever Machado has done to tamper with Donaldson's defense, it appears to be working. Donaldson's UZR currently sits at -1.7 for the year, which expands to -27.9 when you extrapolate it over 150 games. That's currently 25th among third baseman. Where's Machado? He's sitting up in 11th sipping on some high-class tea as he observes his mind play at work.
We still can't rule out the possibility that Donaldson's glove had simply had enough and wanted out. Or that, ya know, it was just a regular baseball play that occasionally happens on a well-struck ball. But when the stars align like this for another shot at the perceived rivalry between two of the game's best third basemen, arguments in favor of non-human influences become extra persuasive.